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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona baseball upsets No. 2 Tennessee in season opener

Amelia McAnear

Garen Caulfield enters the dugout, receives high fives from his teammates after scoring a run in a game against Pima Community College on Oct. 15, 2022 at Hi Corbett Field. The Wildcats would go on to win 5-0.

The Arizona baseball team came up with a huge victory over the No. 2 ranked team in the nation, the University of Tennessee, by a score of 3-1 on Friday in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Tennessee took an early 1-0 lead after a one-out single to right field from sophomore infielder, Christian Moore. Moore made it to third when first baseman, Blake Burke singled up the middle and eventually made it home after a sacrifice fly to centerfield from Zane Denton.

When the Wildcats took the plate in the bottom of the first, the team put early pressure on Tennessee. Righty Chase Dollander loaded the bases with one out. Outfielder, Mac Bingham, came up clutch with a sacrifice fly to score Nik McClaughry and tie the game at 1-1.

Despite a single from designated hitter Logan Chambers, TJ Nichols took care of the middle of the Volunteers lineup. Nichols struck out two batters, Charlie Taylor looking and Jared Dickey, with runners on base.

The Wildcat offense started off the bottom of the second with some firepower from senior infielder, Tony Bullard. Bullard hit a line-drive lead-off home run to left field off of the righty, Dollander, to take the lead 2-1.

Nichols has let quite a few runners on base early. However, his strikeouts have been getting him out of binds including third-out strikeouts with multiple runners on base in the second and third innings. Nichols used his 95 mph fastball early in at-bats and got the outs finishing with his off-speed in the dirt to keep it a 2-1 game.

Pitcher Dollander responded with a stellar inning. His first put-out was a soft ground ball to 2nd base from the outfielder, Chase Davis. Dollander followed this by striking out infielder Garen Caulfield and junior Kiko Romero. Nichols came right back with a quick six-pitch inning to get the Wildcats back to the plate with the lead, 2-1.

The fourth inning was uneventful with strong pitching and solid defense on both sides. Nichols has been unhittable through the fifth inning after a rough start with six straight outs in the fourth and fifth.

With two outs in the bottom of the fifth came the first Tennessee pitching change of the game. Relieving the best pitcher in the country was junior righty Seth Halvorsen, who brought the inning to an end following a Davis single. The score remained 2-1 Arizona heading into the top of the sixth.

Nichols got some help on defense from first baseman Romero, who stole an extra base-hit line drive down the line from Denton for the first out. Nichols got his sixth strikeout of the game before forcing a flyout to get the Wildcats back on offense with a 2-1 lead. Halvorsen had a strong bottom of the sixth with three straight outs.

The Arizona baseball team took to the bullpen after an impressive performance against the No. 2 team in America. Replacing Nichols was lefty Eric Orloff who got the Wildcats back up to bat with a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.

Sophomore Tommy Splaine reached base on an error with one out but other than that Halvorson remained strong keeping it a 2-1 game going into the eighth inning. After back-to-back strike outs from Orloff to start the 8th, Chip Hale changes pitchers again bringing in righty junior, Dawson Nets who finished off the top of the 8th.

The Wildcats got a crucial insurance run after Bingham drove in Romero with an RBI double to make the score 3-1 Arizona. After Halvorsen walked another batter he was replaced with senior lefty, Kirby Connell who would finish out the 8th.

Coming in to finish the game was junior pitcher Trevor Long, who got help from McClaughry, who made a terrific diving catch to make the second out at first. Long would strike out Dickey, looking to end the game and bring the Wildcats their first win of the season over the No. 2 team in the nation.

The Arizona baseball team will take on California State University, Fresno tomorrow Feb. 18th at 1 p.m. at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona.

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